Regína sacratíssimi Rosárii, ora pro nobis!

Ave Maria!
Low Sunday AD 2005

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    Theresa Marie Schindler Schiavo died on Thursday morning after being denied water and nutrition for nearly two weeks.  May God grant her eternal rest—may He have mercy on those who conspired to take her life by sins of commission or omission.

    Terri was not terminally ill, but merely disabled.  In many of the nursing homes across our country there are people like Terri, who receive all of their sustenance through feeding tubes.  Some of them are conscious and quite sharp, while a great many just stare off into space all or most of the time.  In today’s world, a feeding tube is routine care for those unable to swallow without choking—indeed, it is far simpler than trying to feed by mouth.

    If you get your news from network television, you have heard only part of the story about Terri’s fight to stay alive.  One need only watch a few hours of prime-time television to recognize that the networks are part of the ever growing culture of death which pervades our society.  The reporting of Terri’s demise was managed by that very culture.

    What you were told by the networks was that Terri was little more than a vegetable, that she had expressed a wish not to live, and that she would die a peaceful and comfortable death.  About the only negative thing you heard was that Terri’s husband, Michael, had taken up with another women who bore him two children—not particularly unusual or immoral behavior from the standpoint of the TV networks, who insisted that he deeply loved Terri and wanted the very best for her.  Maybe you heard that Michael had been awarded a few hundred thousand dollars, and, as Terri’s guardian, controlled of few hundred thousand more to be used for Terri’s care.

    What you probably did not hear was that, after Terri’s disability, Michael had an earlier girlfriend who dumped him because she was in fear of him;  that a broken bone scan of Terri suggests that she had been the victim of a severe beating;  that a number of doctors think her condition was caused by purposeful deprivation of oxygen;  and that at least one nurse reported Terri to be in insulin shock after a private visit by her husband.  You probably did not hear that Michael spent about $400-thousand of Terri’s money on legal fees in his attempt to have her die;  nor that very little was spent for rehabilitative therapy or even routine dental care;  nor that Terri has not been allowed out of her hospice room since 2000.  You have not heard her nurses tell that they were forbidden to administer in-room therapies, or feed her by mouth in spite of her ability swallow water and eat small spoons of Jell-o.

    You probably did not hear that Terri did not meet the government guidelines for admission to a hospice, or that the hospice was run by run by none other than Michael Schiavo’s lawyer, who has been prominent in the movement toward “mercy killing,” or that the doctor who certified her condition was a board member of the Hemlock Society, and calls himself “Dr. Humane Death.”

    Perhaps you did not hear that a number of physicians held hope that Terri would benefit from rehabilitative therapy if it were allowed.

    No doubt you did hear about the efforts of the governor and the legislature, as well as the US Congress, to spare Terri a death which we do not assign to stay dogs or heinous criminals—or at least to fully investigate the facts of the case.  The state passed a law designed precisely to keep Terri alive—they even called it “Terri’s Law.”  Nonetheless, Terri was starved and dehydrated and died on March 31.

    It is very tempting to put the blame on the judges.

    In January of 1973, in a raw abuse of judicial power, the US Supreme Court declared abortion to be legal in the United States—exercising jurisdiction which it did not possess to overthrow the laws of all fifty states.  It took a year or two to get going, but by 1975 there were over a million abortions every year, with many years exceeding a half million.[1]  That’s well over 40-million children put to death by now—more than twice the entire population of Florida!

    One can also blame the Supreme Court for inventing fictional laws to return fugitive slaves, to force the bussing of school children, and the forbidding of prayer in schools.  All of this in the absence of Constitutional authority and in defiance of laws in effect through state legislation.

    But I would suggest to you that the problem goes far beyond the courts.  After all, the courts have no power of enforcement, for enforcement of the laws is directed (ultimately) by presidents and governors, to whom the various police powers report.  And judges, even those appointed for life, serve only on “good behavior” and can be removed by the legislature or the congress.  This rarely happens, and was not even attempted in any of the cases I mentioned (although a petition circulated for the removal of Judge Greer, the judge in the Schiavo case, nothing has happened. and Terri is dead).

    What we are seeing is something foretold by George Washington as he left office in 1796.  He warned the country that the formation of political parties would bring about political alliances that worked not for the good of the country, but for the interests of the alliances—party loyalty would trump statesmanship.  What even Washington did not foresee, though, was the formation of two monopoly parties, tacitly sharing power and blocking the entry of any serious contender into the public arena.  Some of this blocking is done at the ballot box, for it is nearly impossible for anyone not a member of the monopoly to appear on the ballot.  But, even, more, the monopoly is maintained through fear.  “If you don’t vote for our lackluster candidate, the horrible ogre being run by the opposition will win!”  Voting for the decent man, not part of the monopoly, is derided as a “wasted vote” or even as a vote for the “horrible ogre.”

    In the thirty-odd years since Roe vs. Wade, we have seen the party makeup of the presidency and the congress go back and forth between Republican and Democrat.  But have not seen a change in the rapid expansion of government and the explosion of the national debt (now pushing $8-trillion).  Prayer and religious observance in public places has been relentlessly on the retreat.  The same million and a half or so infants were put to death no matter who sat in the White House, the Congress, or the Supreme Court.  And now, Terri is dead.

    And you can be sure that Terri is but the first in a very long line.  The same folks in Washington—both of the monopoly parties—have also created a crisis for the elderly.  Whether or not government should have become involved in retirement funding, drug development, and health care procurement—it has.  And it doesn’t seem to be doing too well, no matter who is in power.  You can be very sure that a goodly number of feeding tubes will be removed in the coming years.  The first one is always hard, and accompanied by protest, but then it becomes routine.

    What’s next?  If nutrition and hydration are “extraordinary means,” isn’t insulin even more extraordinary?  or antibiotic injections?  or any of a host of other technological methods we employ to keep people alive?  What other infringements can we expect on morality and humanity that no one today even imagines?

    The saintly Pope Leo XIII once explained that it wasn’t the kind of government that mattered all that much.  Christendom had survived and even flourished under empire, monarchy, and republic.  “Legislation” he said, “is the work of men invested with power ... the quality of the laws depends more upon the quality of these men than upon the form of power.... good or bad accordingly as the minds of the legislators are imbued with good or bad principles....”[2]  We certainly must pray for our Nation and for Christendom as a whole, but perhaps at no time in our history has there been a greater need for our citizens to make well informed choices, and to demand that only people of the highest quality be elected and appointed to public positions, and allowed to stay in those positions.  We must not allow ourselves to be suckered into voting for Party-“A”s evil candidate just to insure that Party-“B”s terrible candidate is kept out of office.  If we do not start electing representatives who will actually do something to restore a moral society, we are dooming ourselves.

    A Protestant pastor, Martin Niemöller, uttered a famous statement about people not doing anything when the Nazis came, in turn, for the Communists, the Social Democrats, the trades-unionists, and the Jews.  I will paraphrase:  “I did not do anything, for I was not a communist, not a socialist, not a union member, nor a Jew—but now they are here for me, and there is no one left to stand up for me.”

    Terri is dead ... we are one fewer ... we must act before “there is no one left.”   .  May God grant her eternal rest—may He have mercy on all of us—may He give us strength to do better.

For a comprehensive account of what actually happened in the Teri Schiavo case, be sure to visit

[2]   Leo XIII, Au Milieu des Sollicitudes, 16 Feb 1892, in The Great Encyclicals of Leo XIII (TAN), pages 255, 259.


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